What is the bioterrorism act?

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., made a lasting impression on the people of the United States and the rest of the world. On that day, terrorists armed with box cutters hijacked commercial airliners and flew them into public workplaces and government buildings. These attacks injected a sense of fear and vulnerability that most Americans rarely face.

Shortly a­fter these attacks, letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to several news agencies and U.S. senators. Rumors that terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden had plans to poison U.S. water and food supplies quickly surfaced. Bioterrorism had become a real threat to national security.

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President George "Dubya" Bush signed the Bioterrorism Act into law in 2002.

The U.S. government changed the way it protects its citizens. One change was the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, or Bioterrorism Act (BTA). President George W. Bush signed the BTA into law on June 12, 2002. The purpose of the BTA is to improve the government's ability to prevent, prepare for and respond to any bioterrorism incidents and other national health emergencies.

The BTA is made up of four parts:

  • Title I addresses how emergency rooms prepare for possible attack, including access to vaccines and medicine stockpiles.
  • Title II sets up a registration program for people who handle toxins and biological agents.
  • Title III protects the U.S. food and drug supply by requiring tougher inspection methods and closely watching what comes into the country.
  • Title IV tweaks the Safe Drinking Water Act to help protect the public water supply.

To increase security, several federal agencies work together under the BTA:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
In this article, we'll go over the four sections of the BTA, discuss which part each agency plays and look into some of the penalties for non-compliance.